The Council on Contemporary Families has released a new report which found that individuals in the US who do not have children are happier than those who do. But the information from the reports explains that the reason may have little to do with the kids themselves.
The report reviewed the levels of happiness among parents as compared to non-parents in 22 Western countries. The researchers discovered that the differences between parents in the West and those in the rest of the world were profound, according to Fusion’s Taryn Hillin.
In Norway and Hungary, for example, parents were happier than non-parents, and the results were almost the same in Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. The scientists began to believe that the “parental happiness penalty” is not about the children at all, but about where parents have the kids.
In a list of the countries that have happy parents, the US ranked at the very bottom.
Jennifer Glass is a sociology professor at the University of Texas – Austin and is the coauthor of the report. She commented:
“The bad news is that of the 22 countries we studied, the U.S. has the largest happiness shortfall among parents compared to nonparents, significantly larger than the gap found in Great Britain and Australia.”
In America, the level of happiness for parents is 10% less than the happiness of non-parents, so scientists began studying countries’ duration of parental leave, the generosity of the furlough “packages,” and average cost of child care along with flexibility of work schedules.
When researchers controlled for gross domestic product, they discovered that the key issue influencing parents’ happiness quotient boiled down to social policies in the country.
“What we found was astonishing,” wrote Glass. “The negative effects of parenthood on happiness were entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies allowing parents to better combine paid work with family obligations. And this was true for both mothers and fathers.”
Making the combination of childrearing with paid work less stressful and less costly is a sound predictor of higher levels of happiness for parents.
The research, which will soon be published in the American Journal of Sociology, shows that for once, scientists have found a solution that definitely will raise parents’ happiness without lowering non-parents’ happiness level.
Jenny Anderson and Solana Pyne, writing for Quartz that the magic comes when the whole parental package of policies that span a lifetime is in place. This support allows mothers and fathers to care for their kids, support them, and even enjoy them.
An interesting fact that came out of the study was monetary government subsidies, such as allowances for children or monthly assistance checks, did not impact a parent’s happiness as much as policies that make it easier to work and parent in combination, says Elissa Strauss for Slate.
It has become prudent not to share with colleagues or bosses the stress and tiredness that comes with, for example, being up all night with a sick child. When facing the lack of federally paid sick leave, parental leave policies, and affordable child care, parents begin to feel all alone and, well, unhappy.
The study “Social Policies, Parenthood, and Happiness in 22 Countries” used data from two international surveys given from 2006 to 2008.
Jacqueline Burt Cote, in an article for CafeMom, says:
“With all the current political unrest, you would think lawmakers would begin to realize that we need to make more of an investment in the well-being and stability of our children and families.”